KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The future and fortunes of the Kansas City Chiefs changed dramatically by what happened in St. Louis two years ago, in the early stages of a game that they weren’t even playing.
The San Francisco 49ers had visited the Edward Jones Dome to play the Rams. Alex Smith was their quarterback. On a play late in the first quarter, Smith was scrambling when he took a shot from linebacker Jo-Lonn Dunbar to the back of his neck. Dazed, Smith remained in the game, only to get sacked three plays later and clobbered again on a fourth-and-1 keeper.
Smith had sustained a concussion. Colin Kaepernick replaced him in the game and, well, the rest is history. Smith never earned back his job, was traded to Kansas City after the season, and has now signed a long-term deal to stay with the Chiefs.
Today, he gets another shot at the Rams when they visit Arrowhead Stadium.
“I haven’t given that much thought,” Smith said. “I remember the game, remember it well. But yeah, haven’t really thought about the what-ifs.”
Instead, Smith has been focusing on helping the Chiefs (3-3) build on a big win at San Diego last weekend. The same team that was ravaged by injuries two weeks into the season has become one of the league’s hottest, the play of its veteran quarterback perhaps the biggest reason why.
Smith threw for 221 yards and a touchdown against San Diego, deftly leading the Chiefs on a 62-yard drive to set up Cairo Santos’ winning field goal with 21 seconds left.
“Alex is playing very, very well,” Rams coach Jeff Fisher said. “They’ve done some amazing things with him as far as timing’s concerned. That ball’s coming out and it’s accurate and they put a lot of stress on your defense by the way they disperse the receivers. Then, of course, they have a diverse running game and they’re liable to come up with anything at any time.”
The Rams (2-4), meanwhile, hope Austin Davis can build on his performance in last week’s narrow win over Seattle, when he threw for 155 yards and two TDs without an interception.
Pressed into service after a series of injuries, the undrafted Davis has solidified the quarterback position in St. Louis. He’s even earned some lofty praise from Brett Favre, who said on Twitter that his fellow Southern Miss alum “can be the next Tom Brady or Kurt Warner.”
“I don’t want to be the next anybody,” Davis said, “just want to be the first Austin Davis. Just keep doing what we’re doing and try to go on a win streak here. It felt good to get one this past week. I think it was much needed for our football team.”
• GOVERNOR’S CUP
The Chiefs have won five straight in the series, though the Rams hold the trophy awarded to the winner of the cross-state rivalry by virtue of a preseason win in 2012. “I’m actually more fond of the Governor’s Cup trophy than I am the Super Bowl trophy,” said Fisher, whose Titans lost to the Rams in the Super Bowl in 2000.
• STINGY PASS D
The Chiefs are second in the NFL in pass defense, allowing just 209 yards per game, despite facing the Chargers’ Philip Rivers, the Broncos’ Peyton Manning and the Patriots’ Tom Brady during the first part of their season. They’ve played especially well without Pro Bowl safety Eric Berry, who could miss another game with a lingering ankle sprain.
• RB COMMITTEE
Who knows who is going to get the carries today for St. Louis? Zac Stacy was introduced as the starter last week. Benjamin Cunningham was on the field for the first play of the game. Tre Mason ended up with the most carries, 18 of them for 85 yards.
• SPEAKING OF RBS
The Chiefs have not allowed a touchdown rushing this season. The only other team that has not allowed one is Buffalo. “Really solid group,” Davis said. “I feel like I say it every week. I sound like a broken record — a really good group and we’ve got to do some different things to move the ball.”
• FISHER VS. REID
The coaches have met four times previously, with Fisher having beaten Chiefs counterpart Andy Reid in each of the games. But this is the first time they have met with their current teams. “They throw a lot of things at you, offensively, defensively and on special teams,” Reid said. “That’s been a Jeff Fisher trait over the years that he’s been a head coach.”